Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Last week our discussion centered on the idea that favor flows to faith and faith should be a rest not a work. Hebrews 4:9-11 tells us that there is a rest God intends for his people. That rest comes when we cease from or own works and begin to do the labor of building relationship with him. The more we know him the easier it is to believe him. Proverbs 3:1-6 tells us that we must be willing to abandon ourselves to trust in God. That means we must put the full weight of our lives upon him. That is the rest we are seeking. Favor will flow to that kind of faith.
As we came to the end of the week, I pointed out that there was a bible truth that must be in place in our thinking if we are going to be able to abandon ourselves to trusting God. That truth is another aspect of favor. It is favor with God called grace in the New Testament. We closed last week with the scripture I want to begin with this week.
Thank God that this verse tells us to come to the throne of grace, not the throne of works or the throne of judgment. What is grace? We know that favor is something done for us but not for payment or out of obligation. Favor is “preferential treatment” given to us for no particular reason. How does grace differ with what we have been studying in the idea of favor? Let us look at some definitions.
Both today and in bible times the word grace is used to describe someone of elegance, politeness, generosity of spirit and other pleasing qualities. In the Old Testament, we often see the term favor or grace used in the way we have been looking at it all year. God used favor with people in Exodus to enable the Hebrews to “spoil” the Egyptians. We see favor with God spoken of especially in the Psalms. However there is a difference when we look at the New Testament.
According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, “in none of these instances (of the use of grace in the Old Testament), is there any emphasis on the recipient’s lack of merit as in the New Testament concept of grace.” If we are to understand grace as it is taught in the New Testament, we must understand that it carries with it the idea that we do not deserve the favor that comes to us from God. If we do not understand this point we will interpret grace to mean something it does not.
The Old Testament carries the idea of undeserved favor in the stories of how God dealt with Israel. The words “love” and “mercy” carry a similar idea to that of New Testament grace, but the Israelites did not understand it in the same way. They were God’s chosen people. Through the course of their history this idea caused them to see favor with God as their heritage. The idea that it was underserved did not enter into their theological thinking. They were the children of Abraham. If God gave favor to someone else, it was not deserved. When God gave them favor it was a birthright.
That is not to say that they did not understand that they could lose the favor of God. However, they lost God’s favor by transgressing the law. If they kept the law they had God’s favor. Therefore, the favor of God depended on their keeping of the law. Favor was deserved. The fact that they had both the covenant and the law because God chose to give them to Israel was lost in the equation. They were God’s people. They had a covenant. If they kept the Law God gave them favor so it was deserved in their minds.
We need only look at the majority of the Pharisees to see this attitude graphically displayed. They were inflexible where the law was concerned. They were arrogant and self important. They were the guardians of God’s people and, in their minds, deserving of a special place in society. The people of God deserved favor and the Pharisees deserved it most of all. It would never enter into the pharisaical mind that the favor of God was an undeserved gift from the Lord.
In the light of this thought let us look again at today’s verse. Keep in mind that Hebrews 3 and 4 refer back to the Israelites on their journey from bondage in Egypt to destiny in Canaan. The first generation of Israelites came to the border of the Promised Land and could not go in. Why? They looked at the giants, the walled cities and their own lack and found themselves incapable of overcoming the obstacles before them. One might say that they came to the “throne of what they deserved and what their strength could do instead of the throne of grace and mercy.
The throne we must approach is the throne of grace. You might call it the throne of what we do not deserve. Mercy is getting help from someone who does not have to give it. Mercy implies that the person has the ability to help, but no obligation to help. So we need to come to the throne of what we do not deserve where we will find help we are not owed which will enable us to overcome in the time of need.
The problem with this is that we are conditioned to believe we must pay for help like this. There must be some catch. In the world the saying, “If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t true.” is very valid. However, when we are talking about grace “too good to be true” is exactly what it is. Even so, it is true. God really gives us favor we do not deserve and help that we are not owed.
There is nothing to pay where grace is concerned. There is no standard we have to achieve in order to receive grace. Grace by nature is a free gift that comes to us from God. We did not earn it and we do not have the price it would take to earn it. We cannot work for it because there are no works that can obtain it. It is free. That is one side of the equation of grace.
The other side is that we do not deserve it. If we forget that part we will make grace a license to live in a way that cannot please God. We may say, “I have grace so it does not matter if I sin. Grace will cover it.” If we respond to grace this way, we have forgotten an important element in the grace equation. I do not deserve grace. I am not owed grace. I did not earn grace. I am not entitled to grace.
In our entitlement oriented world we think that things we do not work for are owed to us anyway. That is the mentality Israel took towards the favor of God. It led to an ungrateful and legalistic people. The Pharisees often placed requirements on people that they themselves could not carry.
Matthew 23:13 (NKJV) 13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
I thank God everyday for the unmerited favor that comes to me by the grace of God. I thank God that I do not have to pay the penalty for my sins. I thank God that I do not have to earn my salvation but it comes to me by faith through the free gift of God’s grace. At the same time I remind myself that it is in this unmerited favor that I stand clean before my Lord. I did not deserve it. I still do not deserve it.
I stand before God clean and free. I have a covenant and I am not a beggar because God gave me “great and precious promises.” I can come boldly to the throne of grace. However, it is still the throne of grace. I do not deserve to be there. I am not entitled to be there. I am there because God did something wonderful for me and if I forget that, I will never understand the wonderful grace of God.